‘The Fantasy of the End’ by Alenka Zupančič

WATCH

Inspired by Marx’s critique of political economy and Lacan’s late theory linking surplus enjoyment to surplus value, the conference aimed to introduce a Lacanian interpretation of Marx’s analysis of capital and to propose ways of traversing the fantasies of capitalist society.

Wealth disparity, dismantling the welfare state, privatization, precarization, corruption, environmental degradation, growing nationalism, racism, xenophobia – these are some of the accomplishments of neoliberal capitalism and its political forms. If Freud wondered about the “future of an illusion,” the continued existence of religion after its rational critique, today we are confronted by “the illusion of a future,” the crumbling of the future once promised by neoliberalism, our contemporary religion.

What sustains the current (dis)order? Fantasy is a primary medium of enjoyment in capitalism: for the system to function and renew itself, we must enjoy wanting new commodities, work, children, and lifestyles by imagining ourselves in relation to these desirable objects. What is the relationship between lack and fantasy, desire and enjoyment, and what images of fulfillment does society propose? How does capitalism rely on fantasy and to what social, political, and economic ends? What does the Marxian critique of political economy and the continental tradition of psychoanalysis have to say about the strange coupling of alienation and enjoyment, as well as the possibility of its overcoming?

If in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis we have witnessed a certain return to Marx, we are equally in need of a return to psychoanalysis, a discourse uniquely suited to analyzing the conflictual desires and unconscious fantasies that bind subjects to the social-political order. How does capital fantasize its subjects – to vary another phrase of Freud, “Was will das Geld?” (“What does money want?”) – and what dreams support and undo the contemporary capitalist subject?